SINGAPORE - The Singapore Coffee Festival 2017 got off to a good start on Thursday, with those who attended the industry and media preview giving a thumbs up to its new location at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
Exhibitors liked the bigger 11,500 sq m space, compared to last year's 7,000 sq m at the F1 Pit Building. Boasting an oceanfront view, the venue also has a breezy outdoor area called Sunset Wharf, which will be the location for an outdoor barbeque, live music acts. Another area called Sunrise Wharf will also be the place to enjoy the fireworks display on Friday (Aug 4) and Saturday (Aug 5).
Oriole Coffee + Bar's master roaster Casey Thomas Blanche, 38, said the previous location at the F1 Pit Building was "too closed and confined".
"Here, there's more space for people to move around," he said.
The festival, which opens to the public on Friday and ends on Sunday, is organised by The Straits Times and presented by DBS Bank. About 90 exhibitors, including coffee purveyors, equipment suppliers and cafes, will take part. Activities such as talks, workshops and live music have been planned.
At today's launch, at least 1,175 people had turned up as of 8pm. Trade members and the media sampled the food and drinks on offer. Some cafes have prepared special items just for Singapore Coffee Festival. Hyde & Co is selling its cold brew iced teas in bottled form for the first time at $8 each, while Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee will be launching a special blend of coffee beans. Ms Juliana, who is in charge of the coffee supplier's wholesale operations and procurement and goes by one name, said: "We hope to reach out to more cafes and get them to carry our coffee."
Indeed, many industry players interviewed said that Singapore Coffee Festival is a good opportunity to network.
Hyde & Co's owner Derrick Chew, 31, said that such an event "gives cafe owners a chance to mingle and make friends".
"We're always alone running our own business. But here, you realise that people whom you see as competitors are actually quite friendly," he said. "I really enjoyed the camaraderie last year. We even shared cutlery when some of us ran out."
SINGAPORE COFFEE FESTIVAL
WHERE: Marina Bay Cruise Centre; 61, Marina Coastal Drive
WHEN: Aug 3 (for trade and media only, register at www.sgcoffeefestival.com); two sessions daily from Aug 4 to 6, 10am to 3.30pm and 4.30pm to 10pm
ADMISSION: $22, $18 (DBS and POSB cardholders, ST subscribers)
INFO: Go to www.sgcoffeefestival.com
He said that the festival also allows him to reach out to more potential business partners and customers. Last year's event drew 20,000 visitors, a number he said "we will never be able to hit by ourselves".
Seasoned industry players held talks throughout the day, with sustainability being the focus of talks in the afternoon. Panellists discussed how coffee could become the world's first sustainable agricultural product, as well as how to implement sustainable practices in cafes to encourage eco-friendliness and cost savings.
One of the panellists, Mr Joop Verbeek, 52, owner of New Zealand-based coffee importer and exporter Incafe, said it was time for consumers to "face the music" and look for sustainably sourced produce, including coffee, even if it costs more.
"We've been exploiting the environment in the last 40 years. In the longer term, we'll have to pay more to eat better quality products," he said.
This year's festival has been split into two sessions: Brunch from 10am to 3.30pm, and sundown from 4.30pm to 10pm.
Oriole's Mr Blanche was not in favour of it, saying that "if people buy tickets, they should be allowed to stay as long they like".
But Mr Jeff Yeo, 29, a sales manager at coffee-maker supplier Jarmay Enterprises, said having separate sessions ensures a more diverse crowd. "For the public, there'll be better crowd control. And for exhibitors, they get more exposure because a new group of people will come in later in the day."
Correction note: An earlier version of the story referred to a spot to watch fireworks as Sunset Wharf. This is incorrect. It should be Sunrise Wharf.